Saturday, May 15, 2021
Arts + Culture A leap for CROSSROADS


With a new home at SFMOMA, Cinematheque's experimental CROSSROADS film fest stretches out.


SCREEN GRABS The San Francisco Cinematheque鈥檚 eighth annual experimental film festival, CROSSROADS 2017,聽has some genuine medicine for the overabundance of melancholy fogging up the world these days.

CROSSROADS 2017 will present 59 films, videos, and performance works by 58 filmmakers from around the world, screened over 9 programs, running from Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21 and being presented for the first time in SFMOMA’s newly renovated state-of-the-art movie theater. Here is a mini-guide of my favorite films and some major highlights from easily, the strongest lineup of the festival’s past three years! Get more info and buy tickets here.聽


Travis Wilkerson’s聽Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?聽(US, 2017) was a downright showstopper at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this 70-minute documentary hauntingly explores a post WWII murder mystery of the filmmaker’s own grandfather within a small Alabama town. Do not walk, but run to this Bay Area Premiere for what is easily one of the most moving documentaries of the year! With Live-on stage narration by the director in person!聽Screens Program 2 on Friday, May 19 at 9:30pm


Robert Todd’s聽Restless(2016), an聽eight-minute digital meditation steadied my聽breathing and relaxed my ankles while聽presenting flowing trees and grass to near perfection.聽Screens in Program 1, called “sea to shining sea (we are stuck on this rock),”聽on Friday May 19 at 7:00pm


Paul Clipson has delivered yet another priceless little ditty,聽Feeler聽(2016), a 7-minute 16mm film utilizing the remarkable Canadian musician聽Sarah Davachi and聽following a young woman through B&W and color collages. The constant superimpositions capture a wonderful feeling of being alive and my only complaint is that it didn’t go on for an entire hour.聽Director in person!聽Screens in Program 3, called “a great unknown called trust”聽on Saturday, May 20 at 1:45pm

mclean-see-a-dogThe above program also includes the 18-minute elegy聽See a Dog, Hear a Dog聽(2016) by Jesse McLean, who is easily one of my new favorite filmmakers.聽Her eerie sense of humor, creating her own filmed “found footage” and combining it with intelligent musings and a dog playing the piano, has been stuck in my mind since its most recent Bay Area premiere at the SF International Film Festival. Must see!聽Screens in Program 3聽on Saturday, May 20 at 1:45pm.


Peter Burr’s聽Pattern Language(2016) is perhaps my favorite film in the entire CROSSROADS 2017. This聽consistently fascinating聽11-minute B&W film sports some of the most fascinating聽observational, digitized聽layering of patterned life that I have ever witnessed. DO NOT MiSS THiS IN A THEATER! (WARNiNG: Strobe effect is used to maximum achievement.)聽Screens in Program 4, “if it makes you happy, it can鈥檛 be that bad,” Saturday, May 20, at 4:30pm. 聽


While all of the programs have wonderful films in them, my favorite and highest recommendation is聽program 6:聽“at the foot of a great monument (this ain鈥檛 no storybook)” screening on聽Sunday, May 21 at noon. This profound program remarkably聽questions the boundaries of the rigid beauty of ethnography cinema. Beginning with the 12-minute 16mm film聽Kindah(2016), director with Ephraim Asili聽nonchalantly involves the viewer in vibrant daily dancing — complete with drumming and whistling soundtrack — and other activities in Accompong, Jamaica, a town established by rebel slaves in the early 16th Century. I wanted the film to be screened twice in a row.

Luckily, Cristiana Miranda’s duel-projected nine-minute 16mm film聽About something that concerns us all聽(2016) similarly wanders its way through Portuguese streets, gloriously superimposing hand-processed images atop spirits of old slaves, statues and straw-covered dancers. But nothing prepared me Rajee Samarasinghe’s 14-minute hand-processed, 16mm silent work,聽The Spectre Watches Over Her聽(2016). This high contrast re-staging of an exorcism once performed on his mother in the early 1960s left me utterly speechless both times I watched it. Its silence only adds to the blitzed out beauty.

Miko Revereza’s 8-minute聽Droga!聽(2014) lovingly rewinds and fast forwards through B&W video footage of life in Manila while contemplating love, life and other existential questions. Rounding out the program is Sky Hopinka’s聽I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not as What You鈥檒l Become(2016), a 13-minute elegy to the indigenous poet Diane Burns. Showcasing footage of actual poetry reading, I was most struck by the melding of Hopinka’s beautiful digital blurring and re-designed visual texts. Leaving a theater after these eight effervescent and stimulating explorations is an experience you truly do not want miss.


A Rendering(2016) is a stunning 15-minute digital color film, narrated with a Laurie Anderson-esque voice combined with聽long, languid shots by聽LIMITS, a Seattle-based performance/film hybrid formed by dancer Corrie Befort and sound artist Jason E Anderson in 2014. Screens in Program 7, “a thought comes into your head (like an object)”聽on聽Sunday, May 21 at 2:30pm


M贸nica Savir贸n’s聽Answer Print(2016) 5-minute 16mm film plays out like a methodical聽found-footage聽horror film that had me covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers. Tick, tick, tick. Truly creepy!聽Screens in Program 8,聽“the photon doesn鈥檛 give a damn,” on Sunday, May 21 at 5:30pm.


Greta Snider’s聽Rendition(2015) is an 8-minute quiet exploration of “sensory deprivation” that completely relaxed my stomach, knees and toes. Screens in Program 9, “a few (lost) reflections,” Sunday, May 21 at 8pm.


Playing in the same program Peter Hutton’s epic聽In Titan’s Goblet(1991), each shot seemingly able to somehow lasso the moon away from the haunting clouds protecting it. 聽Screens in Program 9, “a few (lost) reflections”聽on Sunday, May 21 at 8pm.

CROSSROADS runs May 19-21. Tickets and more info here.

Jesse Hawthorne Ficks teaches聽as the聽Film History Coordinator at the聽Academy of Art University聽and curates/hosts the聽MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS聽series in the Bay Area. He is a member of the聽San Francisco Film Critics Circle聽and聽writes film festival reviews for 48hills.

More by this author

What we saw at Sundance 2021, part 2: More Ficks鈥 Picks at the big fest

Questlove's hypnotic 'Summer of Soul' sings, animated 'Cryptozoo' melts face, and two docs on Bay Area HS seniors bring cultural expos茅 close to home.

What we saw at Sundance 2021, part 1: Ficks’ Picks at the big fest

Nicolas Cage, Tessa Thompson, Sparks, and a majestic Georgian tree鈥攐ur annual peek at the giant movie event

Ficks’ Picks at the 11th Annual CROSSROADS Experimental Film Festival聽

This year's mind-melting batch of experimental films at San Francisco Cinematheque's 11th annual CROSSROADS 2020, may be extremely helpful to some of you looking...

What we saw at Sundance, part 3: Crossed borders and different lives

Culling through the forty features viewed at both the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals last week has been as much fun as watching them...

What we saw at Sundance, Part 2: A side-trip to Slamdance

Culling through the forty features viewed at both the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals last week has been as much fun as watching them...

Most read

Boudin allies speak out at a rally against ‘recall madness’

Elected officials, labor, and community leaders say that the DA has kept his campaign promises.

What happened to Halston? New doc dives deep into designer’s story

In Halston, the new biopic about the visionary American fashion designer, director Fr茅d茅ric Tcheng makes every effort to remain objective when portraying the contentious...

Can people paying rent for a parking space be evicted for living in cars?

Caltrans is about to try to remove people from a lot under I-80.

Not one dollar of state rent-relief money has arrived in SF

Hundreds of millions in federal funding is available -- but tenants aren't getting it.

You might also likeRELATED